Rage Against THIS Machine?: Thoughts on “Shadow of the Prequel”
The Darkside or the light?
At the time of writing this, I am waiting on the mail delivery of a pair of Crocs clogs. Official Star Wars: The Force Awakens Crocs clogs. Black in color, holes punched into the dual imagery of good guys on one clog and bad guys on the other. Approaching my 30th birthday in November, I’ve been reflecting on my transition from childhood to maturity, and how the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example: While I’ve become more serious about my career and in being professional, I also just purchased a new pair of Converse All Stars. Superman Converse All Stars. I justify this as a conversation piece for networking, but really it’s because they look cool and I like the character. Or, more accurately, I want to be the character.
Buying shoes will bring me no closer to soaring through the skies and rescuing people, yet I still maintain a closeness to this idea and ideal. Now, I’m not self identifying as a victim of advertising, nor do I accept that label. But, even as I age, there still exists the part of me that’s nearer womb than to tomb, seeking adventure despite and in spite of reality.
Call me a mark, not a victim — I’m not crying.
Fellow Medium writer Rod T Faulkner wrote a nice piece recently on why he wants to go into The Force Awakens “dumb”, knowing next to nothing about its plot or holding heavily high expectations. I responded with my opposition to this, noting that, for me, absorbing knowledge only heightens my joy, as I like to peek behind the curtain now and then (thank you, Wikipedia). With products (like shoes) sticking out in department stores, and readily available information at our immediate disposal, do we stand a chance at being dumb? At feeling joy?
Shadow of the Prequel doesn’t directly ask these questions specifically, but they do come about naturally. In under 20 minutes, this Youtube remix essay makes the exclamation that the marketing build up for The Phantom Menace was a history altering event that, even with new Star Wars movies coming out, probably won’t be replicated. It makes a statement as to the sheer power these stories have both in culture and in hearts and minds. It wins the argument that, despite and in spite of shilling their property out in obnoxious ads and tie ins, the moviegoing public was STILL able to have fun with it all. We just couldn’t consume fast enough, we just couldn’t pry open our wallets quickly enough, we just couldn’t fathom a NEW Star Wars!
The doc only scratches the surface with contrasting Phantom Menace to Force Awakens marketing strategy, but it really didn’t need to go any further. We are living through Episode VII’s slow and steady push, anxiously holding our collective breaths for more footage. For more toys. For. More. What is explored is our subservient acceptance to the consumption of all things Skywalker and beyond. No matter the goofy Pepsi commercials, no matter the creepy Pizza Hut box covers, no matter the movie They Live!, we live for living through this space opera.
It’s fanatical. It’s obsessive. It’s extreme. It’s silly. It’s… only human.
“They’re animals; let them lose their souls.” — from The Godfather
Beneath and in between the lines, there is this uneasy analysis that we are just a bunch of suckers. To see grown men and women gush over action figures and camp out in ticket lines for days on end indeed only strengthens this assumption. And yet, I can’t say it’s wrong. Is it wrong? Not the assumption, but the actions. The final thesis certainly sugar coats things to a degree, almost making simple excuses for acting a fool. It romanticizes the behavior and the machine behind the behavior. Is this wrong to do?
Whether the capitalist assembly line pumping out product after product is The Empire controlling us or us sharing The Force with others is up for debate. The frenzy surrounding it all, on both ends, is not. Star Wars is no Yoda; it’s the Sarlacc. It’s eating us all for survival, with hardly any hope of escape from the escapism. Then again…
… isn’t there a story of Boba Fett making it out alive from Return of the Jedi? Could all this be claimed as a fans journey, not too dissimilar to the heroes journey? Maybe there is a true joy that can be found from such a dirty place. Maybe it’s just an obstacle to be overcome. Maybe, upon theatrical release, the force will awaken.
Or a phantom will continue to menace. What is a man child to do? String up those Superman shoes, and fly. Put on those clogs, and believe. Believe in what? Yourself? Ourselves? Sure.